Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sephora V.S. Ulta: A Beauty Showdown

I go back and forth over which store I like better, Ulta or Sephora.  Each of them has its perks, but in such different ways.  Let's just sit here for a sec and break down every beautiful bit.

So first up is the quality of the store brand.  Sephora has a pretty knockout brand when it comes to all things eyes.  Their eye shadows are pretty well pigmented and their eye liners give good definition.  Ulta's store brand is less than impressive, in so much as the way they display and package their products does not make me want to buy them.  Sephora uses black packaging and haute couture shots in their signage which makes you feel like you are splurging on something more expensive. 

 (Hello gorgeous!)

Ulta's store brand looks like every other drugstore brand in there, and the signage just doesn't make me gravitate to their section.  They also tend to put their brand front and center in their store, while the drugstore is along one wall, and the high end makeup along another.  This makes the shopper choose which side to end up in, thus sending the customer AWAY from their brand.  


Sephora, quite cleverly, buries theirs among the other high end brands.  You may not even realize what brand you are looking at initially.  Now, in Ulta's defense, Sephora doesn't even offer any drugstore products so there isn't a choice to make anyway.  That said, Ulta's nail polish selection is pretty good and the quality is much better than Sephora's brand.  But, when it comes down to the store brand as a whole, Sephora wins, hands down.

Now let's touch upon selection.  Sephora offers their brand and high end makeup companies such as Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, & Lancome.  They also offer your mid-level brands like Urban Decay, Benefit, Too-Faced, and Smashbox.  Ulta on the other hand carries most drug store brands like Revlon, Cover Girl, and Maybelline while also carrying mid to high end brands as well.  While they do not have the sheer amount of high end brands, they chose the ones that the average consumer would most likely buy which is a smart move on their part.  What I like, is that, when I shop at Ulta, I don't have to usually make a second stop for things like face wash or shampoo since they carry these items as well.  For this reason, Ulta wins at selection.  You really can't beat a one stop shop.  

On to the rewards systems.  Both Ulta and Sephora have a beauty points type system in place.  At Sephora, you accumulate points over any period of time and can spend those points on high end samples, which change practically monthly.  This is a wonderful way to try a product you heard about without having to shell out any extra cash.  Also, if you spend more than $300 in a calendar year (which is pretty easy to do at Sephora since most of the stuff they carry is so pricey), you become a VIB (Very Important Beauty insider, how cute) and will get coupons and offers throughout the year, like their coveted 20% off which is usually offered near the holidays.  However, unless you continue to spend $300 each year, you lose this status, and thus any perks that came along with it.  How scammy of them, don't you think?

Ulta, however, is constantly giving coupons, usually minimal, like $3.50 off, but their mobile app always has a coupon that can be used multiple times.  That adds up.  They also offer a 20% off coupon pretty often, several times a year even.  This sometimes excludes the higher end brands, but not always, and you can really get some good deals shopping this way.  

That's not all, though, as their system also adds up what you spend in a quarter and they will offer you a rewards certificate.  On that certificate, it will indicate a "level" you achieved and what you can get within that level.  Level 6 gets you $40 towards a fancy perfume, which is usually what I will get.  The best part is it doesn't stop at 6.  If you have a higher level than the 6 indicated on the pamphlet, you can combine multiple levels until you reach your indicated level.  Last one I got was level 13.  I got a perfume for myself, a cologne for my husband, and an Ulta brand nail polish.  Not too shabby!  You also never cease to get a regular coupon and as long as you spend $50 in their store in a quarter (which if you buy your face wash, body wash, shampoo, or razors here, it is pretty simple), you are guaranteed to get some free item in return. In my opinion, Ulta's rewards system is, well, more rewarding.  I'll take full size free products over tiny samples any day.  

As for the overall experience of shopping, Sephora is very luxe.  You really feel like you are about to be pampered.  The lighting, signage, displays, and workers are just appealing as a whole.  The way I can describe it is decadent.  

Ulta has harsher lighting and the entire store is white.  It feels rather sterile, which is great for a hospital, but detrimental to a cosmetics store.  I want to feel beautiful, I don't want to see every fine line I might have.  Unfortunately, Ulta fails here.  

Also, with the exception of only one store that I have been to and frequent (my buddy, the manager, will attest to how many times I am in there in a given week), many of the stores lack highly trained professionals and when I ask a question, I feel as though it's never really answered or I get some BS reply.  Sephora wins here.  End of story.

So from the points I have discussed we are at a tie.  To be honest, I am not sure which one I like better since they offer such different experiences.  I can say that I frequent Ulta more, but they also have more stores so it is more convenient.  What do YOU think?  Which do you like better?  Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter and Facebook.  Til next time lovelies!

XO - Bekah


  1. I agree with you on all points. Unfortunately for me Sephora is over an hour away and Ulta is right here in my town.

  2. Sephora wins for me.

    The two Ultas near me are horrible! The employees have their noses so far up in the air. They treat customers with disrespect unless you're dressed to the nines, caked in makeup, and showing off how much money you have. If you want to return something it's a mess and they treat you like you're a thief.
    I also got kick out on NYE from an Ulta. All because their website, answering service, and the DOORS ON THE BUILDING did NOT have the correct store hours. I was treated horribly by staff as if I had meant to overstay my visit. Which is a lie, I've worked retail, and I would honestly not even step foot in a store if I knew I had less than a half hour to shop. I wrote the company an email on their website and the manager of that specific store ""tried"" to contact me. When I tried calling back twice for several minutes on two different days no one would pick up the phone.

    I've decided to not shop at Ulta in my area due to these two stores. If I were to move states I'd think hard about giving them a second chance but would try them out. I just wish that that store manager and higher ups would care about me as a customer and I completely feel no one did.

    1. I forgot to mention that one of the Ulta stores near me is almost always understocked. I'm not sure if that is a company issue or that particular store. I also find it rather annoying that they don't all carry the same brands. One carries IT cosmetics and another doesn't. I find that rather odd. It's incredibly annoying to have to plan out a trip rather than just showing up. It sucks that you had that experience. I have also worked in retail and I always hate putting people out so I agree that I also wouldn't have shopped if they were closing so they should have been more clear, and definitely nicer.

  3. Ulta wins for me!! The Sephora closest to me is usually packed and feels cramped, the salespeople tend to hover, and for some reason it's always hot in there! At any Ulta by me, they're more spread out, I get questions answered immediately and well, and there is a wider range of price points. I like being able to get generic nail polish remover, mid range makeup, and salon brand hair products all at once.